One of the biggest, most difficult, but most important things to do in eczema is to break that dastardly itch-scratch cycle.
It goes like this – you scratch an area that’s bothering you. It then flares up and gets scabbed, because if you’re like me with eczema, you scratch pretty damn hard. You then subconsciously continue to itch it, because now it’s dry and scabbed while it’s healing. Then it never gets to heal. Then you feel bad about yourself and just say ‘What the heck, I am covered in gross rashes so a little more itching will not make any difference’.
These are the things that one must realize for itchy eczema sufferers –
If you are a loved one of someone with eczema, yelling at them to “STOP ITCHING” is not going to do any good. I’ve been through this with my husband shouting at me as I was scratching away! This makes it seem like it’s the eczema sufferer’s fault for being itchy. IT IS NOT! You are not a bad person to have these constant annoying skin sensations that make you want to scratch. That being said, it CAN be helpful for loved ones to notice itching and gently provide verbal or physical reminders that not only make the eczema sufferer pause and think about not itching, but actually NOTICE that they’re itching. Maybe you redirect their attention, maybe you gently grab their hand, maybe you hug them, maybe you gently point out not to itch, maybe you say “Itch ME instead”! (This tactic was a big favorite of my husband’s, who loves having his back scratched – every time I was feeling itchy, I was to give him a good back scratch instead). I also started using the tactic of vigorously rubbing the area instead of itching, to provide that tactile sensation without tearing up the skin. I’ve also heard of people using ice cubes or cold and then hot materials to kind of ‘confuse’ the skin’s receptors.
Understand also that eczema sufferers get a special kind of release/relief from itching. I don’t know what it is about that damn eczema, but to finally scratch an itch can just feel SO GOOD! I’ve excused myself from social situations or work, quietly went to a bathroom stall, and just itch itch itched away because it’s such a welcoming sensation for an eczema sufferer.
HOWEVER. I’ve been itching so much lately (no thanks also to the cold dry air of outside, and then the pumped-in heated warm dry air inside) that I NEED to break the itch-scratch cycle. I’ve got a daily ritual of coming home, removing all work clothes (I HATE wearing work clothes – I’m a big slob at heart LOL), and just sitting on the floor and giving myself (my legs, mainly) a good, deep scratch.
This isn’t good for me, though, and my skin is showing the wear of it. Steroid creams can help some, because they can clear up a scabbed patch and then it’s not all dry and itchy as it heals, but then the flares usually return.
I HAVE tried doing meditation via the John Kabat-Zinn CDs – to try and calm my mind and help me focus away from the itching. I’m such a restless person naturally that these didn’t work for me and I was unable to settle down (I’m exactly the kind of person that probably needs these) but I will try them again as I think the mind can be a very powerful thing in diverting our attention away from physical annoyances and pains. I also have a tiny Slinky at my desk at work that I constantly am playing with, just to have that tactile sensation as a substitute for itching.
But, I need suggestions from you, dear blog readers and eczema sufferers. What tactics have worked for you to try and break the itch-scratch cycle?